L.L. Bean has grown significantly from its roots as a one-room operation in 1912 selling one product. And now, the 94-year-old company is embarking on its largest expansion project in its history, planning to open five new stores in the Northeast and expand its retail space and distribution center in Freeport, Maine.
The plans will build on the company's strategy to expand its retail operations, while enhancing its presence in Freeport, where it has its headquarters and flagship store, company officials said. The total cost has not been determined, but will amount to tens of millions of dollars.
The move is the latest in a series of growth initiatives at L.L. Bean, which has had strong growth the past few years after a decade of flat revenues. Besides aiming to open more retail stores, the company has expanded its advertising and recently hired a new ad agency with significant Internet experience.
The first new store will open in September in Burlington, Mass., with another slated to open in October in Center Valley, Pa., near Allentown. A South Windsor, Conn., store will open in the summer of 2007. It is looking at two stores in the Boston area in 2007 and 2008 and others in undetermined locations in the years ahead. Besides its 120,000-square-foot flagship store in Freeport, L.L. Bean has retail stores in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and New Hampshire, as well as 14 factory stores in the Northeast.
In Freeport, L.L. Bean said it plans to take an empty 16,000-square-foot building it owns next to its flagship store, renovate it and open it as retail space to sell a yet-to-be-determined product line. It's also looking at a development where a dirt parking lot and Bean's factory store now sit across the street from the flagship store. It would include a parking garage and possibly 100,000 square feet of retail space adjacent to it that will be leased to other companies and could include several stores.
The company is also planning a $35 million, 330,000-square-foot expansion to its distribution center, located a couple of miles from the store. Construction began last month, with completion set for the fall of 2007.